Notes on collections and events at the RIHS
Cooking (from) the Books #2
Growing up, being allowed entre into my Meme’s kitchen while she was cooking was an exclusive privilege; a privilege belonging to me and her three grown up daughters. She may have favored me with this access for many reasons; because I was named for her, because I was quiet because I lived nearby, or because I was her favorite out of 13 grandchildren (this is the one I choose to believe of course). With this honor, you were allowed to sit “nicely”, i.e. staying still and not touching anything, talk with her about any subject you like, and most importantly get a front row seat to her private culinary world. If you were very good, she’d also give you bowls and beaters to lick before they got hand washed and put back.
Meme cooked and baked breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert fresh every day. I was raised by a full-time working mom so visiting Meme was a little like going to the zoo and watching a fascinating but foreign animal in their natural habitat. She spent most of her life in the kitchen at the stove and sink preparing meals for a family of seven, not including the dozens of extended family members that dropped by unexpectedly. This was a woman with permanently red-colored hands from scrubbing and scouring dishes and cookware; I knew that the kitchen and everything in it was her domain alone.
I never witnessed her using any of the convenience foods or time-saving appliances we use today save for one, her electric waffle iron. I remember her making endless batches of waffles at least once per week, usually on Sunday mornings after church and with a full house to feed. This is when I saw my Meme the most relaxed in the kitchen; she would have made the batter ahead of time and then deftly plop it down into the hot iron, close the top, and take a big sigh of relief. She would get to visit with whoever was in the living room, whisper French Canadian slang to me as she pinched my cheeks, and flirt with my grandfather, all before the “ding” of the waffle maker sounded.
The cookbook I chose my recipe from, Delicious Waffles Recipes, opens with an advertisement from Narragansett Electric Company declaring “Mother, come out of the kitchen.” My Meme’s electric waffle maker allowed her that freedom from being tied to the stove, compulsively checking on everything as she cooked. That is the image I had while making these Tea Waffles; my Meme, Ella, relaxed and laughing while piling waffles high onto my plate. Since everyone was always too skinny for Meme, I turned these waffles into an ice cream sandwich in her honor. After all, this was a woman who let me devour saltine cracker towers held together by pats of full-fat butter to my heart’s content. The end result was not quite like my Memes’ but transportive enough to take me right back to her kitchen.
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs- separate yolks and whites
5 tablespoons butter
Mix and sift dry ingredients in a deep bowl. Into this stir beaten egg yolks, and when batter is nice and smooth, add butter. Then beat for 5 minutes. Fold in stiffly beaten whites of the eggs and bake about 2 and 1 half minutes.
~Ellary Wims Gamache, Administrative Assistant for the Robinson Research Center
Past entries for Cooking (from) the Books: